There is a wind-up clock on the shelf just over my right shoulder which reminds me of the irresistable authority of culture and technology. Two ticks every second – a tick and a tock, the forward-backward clicking of a lever — and behind this martial beat, a subtle but continually reverberating sound like springs alternately stretching and relaxing in a cavern.

I type these words on an innocuously humming machine that roars pleasantly like some distant waterfall. At my computer I am almost nowhere, and its sound seems silence, an unnoted counterpoint to the tapping rhythm of my fingers on the keys.

But the clock, an inexpensive item made necessary by travel, asserts itself like a tactless relative. At times, actually most of the time, my thoughts bear me up into spaces the ticking cannot reach. Suddenly the reverie sputters, and I fall back into this tick-tock world. Yet I wonder if I am every truly free of the ticking. Doesn’t it seem always to have been there, even when unregarded, even before I tuned the arms to our time and wound them into motion to chase it? Whenever this unvaried mantra taps in my head it measures my existence into inevitable segments, spurts of being like a pumping heart’s moment-by-moment grasp for life.

And yet, that moment I forget it, or when the gears and levers wind down to stillness and silence – that unvarying roar I call silence – nothing seems inevitable. I cannot hear my heart anymore, I cannot sense the mechanism of life within me, and I can believe in the soul again.

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